Materials and Techniques

DEFINITION

The substances or materials used in the creation of a work of art, as well as any production or manufacturing techniques, processes, or methods incorporated in its fabrication. This information includes a description of both the materials used to create the work and the way in which they were put together.

SUBCATEGORIES

DESCRIPTION
EXTENT
PROCESSES OR TECHNIQUES
NAME
IMPLEMENT
MATERIALS
ROLE
NAME
COLOR
SOURCE
MARKS
DATE
ACTIONS
REMARKS
CITATIONS

DISCUSSION

This category identifies the materials of which a work is composed; where applicable, the "role" of a material (which is a repeatable subcategory) may be distinguished as medium (e.g., oil paint, watercolor, graphite) or as support (e.g., canvas, oak panel, laid paper).

Source

An object or work's physical composition is described after careful examination. Conservators may be consulted to identify specific pigments. Techniques often considered in the realm of scientific examination, such as X-radiography, may also be used to determine the relationship of one layer of pigment to another, or the presence or absence of an underdrawing.

USES

"Support" is often used as a traditional way of organizing materials, especially in museum collections.

Different media may be used at specific stages in the process of creating a work of art. In studying the creative process, a researcher may wish to examine the use of particular combinations of materials in the evolution of some works. For example, black chalk on blue laid paper was often used for portrait studies.

New materials often influence design, such as the use of bent plywood or tubular steel in early twentieth-century furniture.

The question of "hand" is significant in the attempt to determine an attribution for a work of art. Because an artist will handle materials in different ways, and because different modes of expression are more appropriate to one technique than another (consider the expressive character of a brush-and-ink drawing in relation to a pen-and-ink drawing), grouping works by these characteristics is useful for purposes of comparison.

RELATIONSHIPS

The means by which a work was assembled or created, including a detailed discussion of the relationship of one pigment or material to another, are recorded in FACTURE.

Detailed scientific examination of the work can be described in CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY. Physical changes that took place after the object or work was created or manufactured should be recorded under CONDITION/EXAMINATION HISTORY, except for those resulting from conservation or restoration treatment, which should be recorded in CONSERVATION/TREATMENT HISTORY.

Specific patterns or shapes formed with the materials mentioned here should be noted in the category PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION.

ACCESS

The information in the subcategories of MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES can be used to formulate queries in association with other characteristics of a work. This will make it possible, for example, to locate Venetian works on blue paper, Flemish etchings from the eighteenth century, or trois-crayon drawings that were not made in France.


Materials and Techniques - Description

DEFINITION

A prose description of the technique, media, and support of the work of art.

EXAMPLES

oil on canvas [Figure 17]

egg-tempera paint with tooled gold-leaf halos on panel [Figure 28]

oil or oil and tempera on panel transferred to canvas [Figure 8]

distemper (thin washes of pigment in animal glue) on linen [Figure 24]

pen and brown ink and black chalk on paper [Figure 30]

silverpoint, with white heightening, on silver-gray prepared paper

red and black chalk and brown and reddish wash, squared in black chalk [Figure 27]

pen and brown (iron-gall) ink and wash, graphite, watercolor, gouache and opaque white, with gum arabic and scraping out, on gray wove paper

aquatint over an etched outline

etching, engraving, and drypoint on laid paper

gelatin silver print [Figure 12]

bronze

iron, artificially oxidized

Carrara marble on granite base

engraved and polished dark green agate [Figure 29]

marble with polychromy [Figure 11]

Volkswagen bus with 20 sledges, each carrying felt, fat, and a flashlight [1]

gold plate over silver, with semiprecious stones

leaded and stained glass

wool and cotton

veneered with mahogany, with gilt bronze mounts [Figure 13]

gilded maple

painted and glazed earthenware

soft-paste porcelain, colored enamel decoration, gilding [Figure 1]

boulle marquetry in brass and tortoise shell

"The stage was in the cellar, and all the lights in the shop were out; groans rose from a trap-door. Another joker hidden behind a wardrobe insulted the persons present... [T]he Dadas, without ties and wearing white gloves, passed back and forth... André Breton chewed up matches, Ribemont-Dessaignes kept screaming, 'It's raining on a skull,' Aragon caterwauled. Philipe Soupault played hide-and-seek with Tzara, while Benjamin Péret and Charchoune shook hands every other minute. On the doorstep, Jacques Rigaut counted the automobiles and the pearls of the lady visitors..." [2]

DISCUSSION

This subcategory supplies a description of the technique, media, and support of the object insofar as they have to do with the creation of the work of art. It clarifies the relationship between the media and the techniques used to apply them. Technique is the instrument or method used in the application of media, including any reproductive method. Medium is the material applied to the support. Support describes the characteristics of the surface upon which media have been applied. For example, for a drawing described pen and brown ink and black chalk on paper [Figure 30], pen is the instrument; ink and black chalk are the media; and paper is the support.

If more than one technique or medium was used, it is useful to list them in the sequence of their application, if known (e.g., graphite, pen and black ink, with gray wash) or the order of their importance (e.g., red and black chalk and brown and reddish wash, squared in black chalk [Figure 27]).

ACCESS

In order to have access to the information in this description, the other sets of subcategories of MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES should repeat as necessary for each technique, medium, or support described. These subcategories allow for the indexing of materials, in relation to their roles, colors, the techniques used to apply them, and the sources used to identify them.

Colors, such as red, blue, or pale green, are a distinguishing characteristic of materials or media. Since color can be associated with both a medium and a support, as in the case of blue paper and red ink, a link must be maintained between these terms to maintain this meaning.


Materials and Techniques - Extent

DEFINITION

The specific part of a work composed of a certain material manufactured or created using a particular technique.

EXAMPLES

overall
surface
statue
baselid
backing board
lower panel
glaze

DISCUSSION

Works of art can be made up of many different parts, each composed of different materials, or made using different techniques. Recording the extent of the use of a particular material or technique clarifies this relationship.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT (especially Materials hierarchy and OBJECTS Facet), ACRL/RBMS Binding Terms, ACRL/RBMS Genre Terms, ACRL/RBMS Paper Terms, ACRL/RBMS Printing and Publishing Evidence, Base Mérimée: Lexique, the British Archaeological Thesaurus, ICOM Costume Terms, the Index of Jewish Art, ISO 5127-3: Iconic Documents, ISO 5127-11: Audio-visual Documents, LC Descriptive Terms for Graphic Materials, Moving Image Materials, Revised Nomenclature, Reyniès' Le Mobilier Domestique, and Tozzer Library Headings.


Materials and Techniques - Processes or Techniques

DEFINITION

The means, method, process, or technique by which a material was used in the creation of a work.


Materials and Techniques - Processes or Techniques - Name

DEFINITION

The name of a process or technique used in the creation of a work.

EXAMPLES

drawing [Figure 27]
painting [Figure 6 and Figure 28]
sculpting [Figure11]
stumping
pricking
carving
intaglio [Figure 29]
engraving
etching
gilding
weaving
chasing
tooling
aquatint
burnishing
coating
overpainting
montage
inlaid
collage
red figure [Figure 16]
finger painting
underdrawing
drawing à deux crayons
stipple engraving
stumping
stencil
duplicating
impasto
gelatin-silver print [Figure 12]
assemblage
chromogenic color process

DISCUSSION

Materials can be fashioned, formed, or applied to an object or work in many different ways, with greatly varying results.

Identification of process or techniques, printmaking or photography, is a skill that requires connoisseurship. The process by which an object, work, or image was created may not be known or may be under dispute.

USES

Identifying the technique by which a material was applied or shaped describes the object or work more clearly. It also makes it possible to group other similar objects or works on the basis of technique.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT (especially Processes and Techniques hierarchy), ACRL/RBMS Binding Terms, or the Index of Jewish Art.


Materials and Techniques - Processes or Techniques - Implement

DEFINITION

The name of any implement or tool used to create the work using the process or technique recorded in MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES - PROCESSES OR TECHNIQUES.

EXAMPLES

roulette
compass
chisel
brush
eraser
chain saw
palette knife
felt tip pen
jacquard loom
burin
sable brush
scorper
pen
pencil
fingers

DISCUSSION

Recording the name of the implement[s] used to create a work using a particular technique makes it possible to distinguish between otherwise similar ways of creating a work of art.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT (especially Tools and Equipment hierarchy), and Revised Nomenclature.


Materials and Techniques - Materials

DEFINITION

An identification of the materials used to create the work of art, along with an indication of where they were employed.

DISCUSSION

An identification of the materials used by an artist is critical to an understanding of the work and how it was created. The information recorded about materials used in a work of art is complex. For example, it is important to know not only the name of the material, but also how the material was used in the creation of the work (MATERIALS - ROLE), what color it is, where the material comes from, and what identifying marks can be found on the material (MATERIALS - MARKS). Each of these pieces of information provides an additional clue to understanding the process of creating the work of art.

The identification of an artist's materials can be very straightforward. In other cases, it involves a degree of conjecture and opinion. A technical analysis may be necessary in order to identify a particular material.


Materials and Techniques - Materials - Role

DEFINITION

The role that a material plays in the composition of the work.

EXAMPLES

support
medium

DISCUSSION

It is particularly important to distinguish between medium and support. Support is the primary material of which the object is made (e.g., marble, wood, bronze, canvas, or paper). There may be primary and secondary supports (as with a sheet of paper mounted to cardboard). If materials are applied over the support (e.g., oil paint or chalk), these are the media.


Materials and Techniques - Materials - Name

DEFINITION

The type of material of which a work is composed.

EXAMPLES

wood
glass
marble
poplar
charcoal
vernis Martin
laid paper
mother of pearl
egg tempera
paint
oil paint
gold
iron gall ink
bronze
ink
gouache
canvas
Conté crayon [TM]
Foam-Cor [TM]
burlap sacking
deer bone
cinnabar
amethyst
fiberglass
Formica [TM]
the artist

DISCUSSION

This subcategory repeats to index all media and supports used to create the object. The degree of detail with which a material is described--for example, whether poplar or wood is used to describe a panel support--is defined by institutional policy. The identification of materials is sometimes a matter of dispute which may require a technical examination. Uncertainty must be accommodated.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT (especially Materials hierarchy), ACRL/RBMS Paper Terms, the British Archaeological Thesaurus, and Revised Nomenclature.


Materials and Techniques - Materials - Color

DEFINITION

The color of the material of which a work is composed.

EXAMPLES

vivid yellow
cerulean blue
red
light green
black
white
strong yellowish brown
pale purple

DISCUSSION

This subcategory specifies the color of a material that is used in the creation of the work.

The identification of color is subjective, and the vocabulary used to describe color may be vague. Comparing a work to a standard color chart is one way to achieve a level of consistency in this information.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of a controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT Color hierarchy.


Materials and Techniques - Materials - Source

DEFINITION

The geographic place from which the materials used to create the work of art originated.

EXAMPLES

Siberia
China
Carrara, Tuscany, Italy
probably North Africa

DISCUSSION

The sources of materials can be found in specialized texts that deal with the commerce and history of materials. Uncertainty should be accomodated.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of an authority of geographic places is recommended; sources of vocabulary include TGN, Canadiana Authorities, and LC Name Authorities. Hierarchical relationships between places should be maintained.


Materials and Techniques - Materials - Marks

DEFINITION

A description and identification of marks inherent in or applied to the material before it was fashioned into the work of art, including watermarks and stationers' stamps or marks.

EXAMPLES

foolscap
dog with a coat of arms in a circle
snake with a ring
letters MJ in orb with cross
fleur de lys above a banded shield; countermark: STACE [3]
Florentine lily in double circle with F below and CAC above
crescents in a circle (possibly arms of Piccolomini)
indistinct (probably walking man) [4]
star in circle with cross (like Briquet 6088)
watermark: none visible through lining [5]

DISCUSSION

This subcategory should contain descriptions or accurate transcriptions of marks or text on the materials used to make the object or work. If the mark corresponds to published dictionaries (e.g., dictionaries of watermarks), this should be indicated.

Marks should be transcribed or described after close examination of the object. Descriptions may also be drawn from published catalogs or unpublished conservators' reports.

ACCESS

In order to have access to the information in the descriptions illustrated in the above examples, an authority of marks is recommended. A name and the dates discussed in the following subcategory could be stored in such an authority. The use of consistent syntax is recommended. Controlled vocabulary should be used to indicate the type of motif or work. See for example, the AAT (especially Information Forms hierarchy).


Materials and Techniques - Materials - Marks - Date

DEFINITION

The date or range of dates at which a particular mark in a material was in widespread use.

EXAMPLES

1646
ca. 1740 - ca. 1752
before 1574

DISCUSSION

The date of the mark found on the work assists in providing a date for the work itself, and in authenticating it. The information in this subcategory may be found in the standard sources that catalog marks on works, or assigned on the basis of specialized knowledge.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

Dates can be recorded in two ways: as text (illustrated in the above examples), and as two integers indicating the beginning of a date span and the end of a date span (dates BCE can be stored as negative values). Rigidly controlled format is required to allow retrieval. The use of date guidelines is recommended, such the AAT Date Guidelines or ISO 8601: Dates & Times.


Materials and Techniques - Actions

DEFINITION

An identification and description of any actions to be performed during the execution of the work of art.

EXAMPLES

dance
recitation
painting
standing
walking
clapping
watching
screaming
growing
melting
sleeping
pouring
rotting
laughing

DISCUSSION

This subcategory specifies any actions that are incorporated into the work of art, linking them to the materials or techniques used in association with them.

The information in this subcategory may be determined on the basis of the description of the materials and techniques of the work. When a work is not well documented, all the actions that were incorporated into it may not be known. Uncertainty must be accommodated.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as the AAT Activities facet, Garnier's Thesaurus iconographique, LC Thesaurus for Graphic Materials, or ICONCLASS.


Materials and Techniques - Remarks

DEFINITION

Notes on the identification of the materials, techniques, or actions used in the creation of the work of art.


Materials and Techniques - Citations

DEFINITION

Refers to the sources of the information included in any of the MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES subcategories, including works that helped identify a particular material or technique.

_________

ENDNOTES

1 Joseph Beuys, The Pack, 1969 (Collection Herbig, Germany), in Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1980), p. 383.

2 Maurice Nadeau, The History of Surrealism (New York, 1967), pp. 62-63; Edward Lucie-Smith, Art Today (Oxford: Phaidon, 1977), p. 392.

3 Canadian Centre for Architecture, "Watermark," in Collections Documentation Guide, (Montreal: 1993).

4 Canadian Centre for Architecture, "Watermark," in Collections Documentation Guide, (Montreal: 1993).

5 Paolo Posi, "Designs for the Chinea of 1760: Chinoiserie," Cara D. Denison, Myra Nan Rosenfeld, and Stephanie Wiles, Exploring Rome: Piranesi and His Contemporaries (New York: The Pierpont Morgan Library; Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1993), cat. no. 10, 16.